For anyone who is serious about seeking after Christlikeness, this book is a must read. Jared doesn't unpack anything new. Rather, he is unpacking an age old message into a new context, the 21st century. He has entitled his message, "Gospel Wakefulness", but even by his own admission, doesn't feel like he came up with the term himself. Gospel Wakefulness is all about pursuing and being filled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ in new and fresh ways. Jared confesses that he worries that this message will get old. But he also calls that confession what it is, a lie. Everyone should read this book and have your heart, mind, and soul awoken to the Gospel in new and fresh ways. this message of Jared's is a message that the larger church body needs to hear! Thank you Jared!
In 1730 to 1740 America experienced the First Great Awakening, a revival that not only impacted the British Colonies, but one that spread around the globe. Around the time of the Civil War, America experienced the Second Great Awakening. Now 150 years later America is in a spiral down the trail of post-modernism! This contrast is striking. Has the Church fallen asleep? Has it failed in its mission assigned to us by our LORD in Matthew 28:19-20? Is the problem with the Church, or is the problem in the pew?
These are some of the questions that motivated me to take a look at the newest book by Jared Wilson, "Gospel Wakefulness". My own relationship with Christ also motivated me to take a look at this, and I was curious, just what is Gospel Wakefulness?
Jared Wilson defines "Gospel Wakefulness" as: "_treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring His power more sweetly (Wilson 24)." However, Mr. Wilson goes on to explain that Gospel Wakefulness is not something you do or can learn, but something that happens to you as you grow in your relationship with Christ (34).
I like to share my disagreements up front. There is no advantage in my mind to hold off until the end, until people are reeled in to the greatness of a book (and this is a great book). However, it is written by man, and has flaws. My primary disagreement with Jared Wilson is in his view of how Gospel Wakefulness occurs as an act of God as a lover. Mr. Wilson makes the point that Gospel Wakefulness is being "swept off our feet by a romancing God (69)." He then goes on the attacks of what he calls machismo and saying that this is how God draws us (70). I've been saved now for almost 20 years, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced Gospel Wakefulness as Jared Wilson defines it. However, I was not drawn to God by a romantic love, but that of the love of a father.
Hebrews 12: 5-6 says, "And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (English Standard Bible)'" This is how the LORD stirred my heart to Gospel Wakefulness, not as some lover trying to woo His bride. I have been very blessed by the LORD since the point of my Wakefulness, for which I'm very thankful.
Now let me share you some of the many praise worthy aspects of this book. There is no doubt in my mind that Jared Wilson understands greatly that which he has written about. To have such a clear definition of Gospel Wakefulness, I believe, only comes from experiencing it for one's self. Throughout the book Jared Wilson also takes the time to share several other people's stories and their encounter with gospel wakefulness. One of the stories that really struck me was the story of Eric, probably because it some ways it mirrors my own story. Eric's story is in Chapter 2 which is Nonnegotiable Brokenness.
Another chapter that really stood out to me, not necessarily for myself, but because of my relationship with my wife, was the chapter on Depression. Jared helped put things in a way I could understand, and even see how better to minister to my wife who has dealt with depression since she was a child. In this chapter Jared mentions his own failing in ministering to someone who was severely depressed, but then goes on to explain how now he sees things differently. I've been like many of the Christians whom Jared mentioned who often times think that if a person's relationship with Christ was better then they wouldn't be depressed. This is of course untrue. Jared helped show me ways where I can stop being like Job's friends, and instead be the support my wife needs.
Finally Jared Wilson's chapter on "The Gospel Wakened Church" really grabbed my attention, and had me shouting, Hallelujah! (All right maybe not quite, but it was a great chapter). In this chapter Mr. Wilson mentions Tim Challies and an experience he had at a conference up in Canada. He had been asked to speak, and decide to focus his topic on the centrality of the gospel (183). Jared Wilson mentions how Mr. Challies felt that the reception was a little cold to this particular message. And in fact Jared Wilson quotes an attendee who was disappointed that Mr. Challies didn't cover something other than the centrality of the gospel (184).
In this chapter I again saw some of myself, as he quoted C.S Lewis. C.S. Lewis wrote several letters in which he mentions his experience of "Gospel Wakefulness". In one particular letter C.S Lewis mentions how he had been asked about a belief at some point earlier he would have said he believed it, but something happened in his life where he had now experienced his belief (186). One very strong aspect of this chapter is it gives six resolutions for Gospel Wakened Churches. You can find these resolutions on pages 197-200. The other aspect that I think is central to this chapter is its stressing the importance of the Gospel not just once, but every day.
Even though I have concerns with Jared Wilson's attack on "machismo" I would still have to rate this book 5 out of 5. So strongly do I believe in the message of this book that I have already given it hearty recommendations to two of my brothers, and will be recommending it to my brother's-in-law as well! I also told a friend of mine, who also has a review coming out on this book that this is a book he needed to read because of what he would gain. I know that Jared Wilson is working on another book, and I look forward to reading some of his other writings.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Have you ever read a book and thought this book tells your life story? When I read Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson this is exactly how I felt. Jared explains that "Gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly" (Wilson, 24). This book covers topics such as brokenness, affections, worship, hyperspirituality, spiritual disciplines, sanctification, depression, gospel confidence, the gospel-wakened church and fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.
As I read this book I felt like Jared put to words what I experienced when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. This is not to say that I do not continue to experience Gospel Wakefulness. My teenage years were very hard for me personally as my parents got divorced and there was a lot of family turmoil and what not that continued on into my mid-twenties. Through all the mess of my family life the Gospel sustained me and I grew closer to God while many of my friends who went through the same things fell away from Jesus. I'm convinced that the reason I did not fall away was because the Lord awakened me to the power of His grace. Gospel Wakefulness for me was just as Jared described it "Treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly" (Wilson, 24).
As I finished this book I reflected on what I read trying to come up with one chapter or even one sentence that stood out to me the most, but couldn't find just one. It is not often that I read a book that is so grounded in the Word of God, is theologically robust and so edifying. Pastor Scott Smith was right on the money (in my opinion) when he said of Gospel Wakefulness that it is, "One of the mot theologically faithful, refreshingly honest, pastorally sensitive, and eminently practical books on the gospel."
Some people may have issues with all the stories and think that this gives the book a "feeling" oriented book. I have to admit when I first started reading this book I thought this, but as I continued to read and reflect on what Jared was teaching, I came to conclude that this is not all he was communicating. Jared is clearly trying to get to the heart-strings of his readers, but he does so in a way that is thoroughly grounded in the Word of God. Jared aims at stirring up the affections but not just to rouse our feelings but to point us toward the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
The two chapters that stood out the most for me were the chapters on hyperspirituality and depression. Being that I grew up in the Church and in a Christian family hyperspirituality is something I have struggled with in my past. In fact I would say this was the issue I battled with in my late teens to early twenties. In that time period God used His Gospel in powerful ways in my life as I discovered the centrality of the Gospel. Before this most of my Christian life consisted in doing things whether at Church or in the ministries I was involved in. While I wouldn't have said it at that time I was very much living a performance based faith where as Jared said, "We turn astonishment over the gospel into fuel for measuring up" (Wilson, 98).
One of the other big battles in my Christian life one that I still struggle with from time to time is depression. Jared makes a very good point that "What gospel wakefulness presupposes is that whenever a person tops out emotionally, they do so at the gospel" (Wilson 148). This is an important point and one of the reasons I don't believe that Gospel Wakefulness is primarily a book on just stirring up believers' affections for God. Jared clearly communicates that believers are to be stirred up for a purpose-- the Gospel. A lesser writer may have issues communicating this point with such clarity and it is a bold point to be sure, but Jared does so with the skill of a surgeon by drawing out the importance of the work of Christ for Christians. As Jared points out, "What the Christian can be sure of, and what the depressed Christian can reasonably hope, is that while the darkness may be bigger than us, Christ is bigger than the darkness (Wilson, 150). Wilson wisely counsels his readers to seek professional help from a Christian counselor for the issue of depression and not to discount taking medication.
I recommend reading Gospel Wakefulness it will surprise you at times and perhaps even shock you with the Gospel, but it will not disappoint you. Reading Gospel Wakefulness will be a breath of fresh air for those who have been in the Church their entire lives and are tired of playing games with God. I'm thankful Jared wrote this book because it gave words to a period of time in which I had no idea what God was doing in my life. My sincere prayer is that the Lord Jesus would use this book to awaken a generation to the centrality of the Gospel by showing them the multifaceted brilliance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The moment you read the Foreward by Ray Ortlund, you could feel the emotion that comes from every page in this book. What I loved about this book was all emotion and passion in letting the gospel be our driven force. This is exactly what this book is about.
The phrase "Gospel Wakefulness" means "treauring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly." Jared goes on to say that one sign of Gospel Wakefulness is "failure of anything else to thrill the soul like the gospel." Jared continues to share about signs of one who has not be awakened by the gospel:
1. The gospel doesn't interest you-or it does, but not as much as religious subjects.
2. You take nearly everything personally.
3. You frequently worry about what other people think.
4. You treat inconveniences like minor (or major) tragedies.
5. You are impatient with people.
6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23).
7. The Word of God holds little interest.
8. You have great diffculty forgiving.
9. You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are to "clingy" or too controlling.
10. You think someone besides yourself is the worst sinner you know.
11. The idea of gospel centrality makes no sense to you.
Jared shares personal stories as well as stories from other people about how they were wakened by the gospel. This book is indeed one of the best books I have read this year. In fact, it is going in my top 5 list of books for 2011. I highly recommend this book.